Objective: To investigate the impact of a diagnosis of fibromyalgia (FM) in clinical practice on health care resource use in the UK.
Methods: Rates of visits, prescriptions, referral, and diagnostic testing were estimated in patients who had been diagnosed as having FM between 1998 and March 2003 in UK primary care and compared with those in matched controls. Rates were calculated in 6-month intervals from 10 years before until 4 years after the FM diagnosis.
Results: Patients (2260) were newly diagnosed as having FM; 81.3% were women. Their mean age was 49 years. FM patients had considerably higher rates of visits, prescriptions, and testing from at least 10 years prior to diagnosis compared with controls. By the time of diagnosis, FM patients had 25 visits and 11 prescriptions per year compared with 12 visits and 4.5 prescriptions per year in controls. Visit rates were highest for depression, followed by fatigue, chest pain, headache, and sleep disturbance. Following diagnosis, visits for most symptoms and health care use markers declined, but within 2-3 years, most visits rose to levels at or higher than those at diagnosis.
Conclusion: Primary care patients who had been diagnosed as having FM reported higher rates of illness and health care resource use for at least 10 years prior to their diagnosis, which suggests that illness behavior may play a role. Being diagnosed as having FM may help patients cope with some symptoms, but the diagnosis has a limited impact on health care resource use in the longer term, possibly because there is little effective treatment.